Establish New “family Pandemic Rules”
Are there many kids on screens these days? Not to sleep later? To sleep more? Wear your pajamas all day and all night? Hello and welcome to Pandemic Parenting, a game show where everything is invented and glasses don’t matter.
If this sounds like I’m hacking a little, it’s because I just had to press pause for a while to clean up the water that spilled under my bed – and dust is everywhere on some books, papers, and a whole army. rabbits. The wet dust on the carpet is … really something.
Would I let my nine-year-old son play computer games on my bed, eating chips and hiding a full glass of water on the floor next to him? No, I wouldn’t; it sounds like a mess waiting in the wings! But now they are demanding a change in priorities. Normal family rules no longer apply here because these are not normal times. If you’re worried about how you systematically violated every screen time rule ever enacted by the end of your first week in isolation, you can go ahead and stop. It’s not that you’re breaking the rules; you are still living by the rules of the pandemic.
We know that at some point life will return to something like normal. And when that blessed time comes, our kids will likely expect that playing Minecraft four hours straight a day will continue to be an acceptable experience. But we can help curb their expectations by talking to them about the Pandemic Rules.
Think of pandemic rules as vacation rules. Not that the pandemic itself is like a vacation – but the experience of living within it is reminiscent of how the course of our days changes dramatically (and temporarily) while we are on vacation. However, when the vacation ends, the way we eat, sleep, and play returns to normal overnight.
The rules for a pandemic in every family will be different depending on the age of your children, their temperaments, individual needs, and your priorities. Maybe you have a strict food and snack system that is eaten at the kitchen table, but right now you said that the kitchen table is a makeshift office, so whatever it is, grab a snack on the couch. Once the pandemic is over and the stationery is returned to the office, it will return to the table with these pretzels again.
You may have decided that they can have unlimited screen time on weekends – provided they finish their business and either play outside or do something physical for a certain amount of time. This is fine! It’s a parenting pandemic!
If your children are old enough, you might even want to get their opinion on the rules of the pandemic – after discussing their temporary nature – to increase interest. I found that my son is quite willing to stick to an academic routine for the week – if I set aside a couple of 30 minute breaks during which he can do whatever he wants (watch TV). I used to really limit the amount of gum he chew in a week, but now he’s allowed to leave and chew gum in his room whenever he wants to. Why? I do not know; because it makes him happy, and now I have something to worry about.
Maybe you say yes more often to chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese for dinner, or let them sleep a little later, or leave their toys on the floor. I’m not encouraging you to create a bunch of bad habits just like that, but all those good habits you’ve tried so hard to cultivate and maintain may not go well with the pandemic. Adjustments may need to be made in favor of everyone’s mental health.
Once that has passed us – when children inevitably melt away or resist a sudden return to normal rules – repeat this phrase as needed: These were the rules of the pandemic, dear. Now life is back to normal and all the usual rules are in effect.